While putting an oven in your backyard may seem as silly as growing a garden in your kitchen, a backyard brick oven is a fun, unique, and fully functional addition to any outdoor space. With it you can bake great bread and pizza while adding a fun focal point to your whole outdoor ambiance.
First off, let’s think about how these ovens work. Cooking with a brick oven is similar to using a convection oven; the bricks cook with radiant heat, convection and conduction when they’re heated up by a fire. Radiant heat is heat from a direct source. In a wood fired oven, whatever is inside the oven is cooked by the heat coming directly from the fire and the heat stored in the oven walls and hearth. When a brick oven is used properly, the radiant heat is stored in the dome of the oven and the oven floor, allowing food to be cooked from all directions. The special shape of your brick oven insures that radiant heat is stored and used efficiently and reduces all cold spots. Slowly building the stored heat in your oven will enable you to take advantage of radiant heat for longer periods of time. High heat and short cooking time projects (like pizzas) require this kind of strategy, meaning you’re likely going to want to utilize radiant heat by leaving a fire or hot coals in the oven during the time of the backing.
When an oven bakes something using convection, it circulates heated air through an oven. The air enters the oven through the access hole and is rapidly heated by the fire in the back of the oven. As the air continues to heat, it passes to the back of the oven and rises, passing the food again on the way out of the oven’s flue, which is towards the front of the oven where it entered. You can control the amount of air entering and leaving the oven by controlling the flue. For baking bread, fire is removed from the oven and then a door is placed into the oven to keep the heat inside. When you add cool dough to a hot oven, the convection will occur through heat transfers within the dough.
Finally, brick ovens use conduction. This means a cooler object comes in contact with a warmer object and the heat is transferred. This can occur by putting pizza dough on the floor of an oven that has stored radiant energy.
Now that you understand how brick ovens work, you’re probably ready to buy or make one. If you want to make one, go to your local home depot and pick up refractory bricks for the dome and cooking floor, refractory mortar, a ceramic fibre blanket for your oven dome insulation, calcium silicate board for your under floor insulation, a 1350 grade refractory castable for your dome keystone and filling larger gaps and some LiteFill perlite for insulating the render layer over the blanket. The rest comes down to casting, masonry, and meticulous following of steps so that your pizzas turn out as beautifully as your brick arches.